Creating an eBook can be a major undertaking, but it’s a vital tool for B2B inbound marketers and a great way to attract potential leads to your organization. This type of online resource provides greater value, insights and education than a blog and, because its content is more valuable, it’s often presented as gated material on a website. In other words, you have to exchange some personal information via a form to access it.
The “e” in eBook is supposed to stand for electronic. When done right, that “e” will also stand for effective, engaging and, depending on the subject matter, even exciting.
Sometimes, however, you might go through the steps of filling out a form and downloading the content, only to become frustrated when you discover that the eBook was uninformative and hard to follow, didn’t live up to its claims and, worst of all, boring. It doesn’t take long for it to be dragged directly into the virtual trash bin.
We’ve helped develop hundreds of successful eBooks over the years, and they’ve attracted thousands of leads for our clients. More importantly, they’ve helped lead to thousands upon thousands in sales in combination with other inbound efforts. Creating a successful eBook takes more than providing the right content — although that is paramount — it also must avoid these common mistakes that diminish its effectiveness.
1. Poor First Impressions
You’ve probably heard that it only takes a fraction of a second for someone to form an opinion of a person, and the same holds true for someone’s first impression of your eBook. A boring, uninspired cover design will significantly reduce the probability that your target buyer will want to read it. Consider that leads will likely view your cover design as a thumbnail image on a landing page, so keep it clean and free of clutter. And make sure the headline grabs their attention and speaks to the pain points you’re trying to address.
2. Too Much of the Same Thing
Consider that some prospects will only view one piece of your content...and, on the other hand, that some will go to your Resources page and view everything you’ve ever published. In that case, if they see that all your eBooks (and tipsheets and guides, etc.) have the same cover (just different titles), they’ll find it difficult and time-consuming to ascertain the differences, and probably click off the page. While everything your organization publishes should follow your established brand standards (colors, imagery, fonts, etc.), you need only “marry” your content pieces. In other words, they should all appear to be from the same family using the same brand standards, but mix it up a little and give them interesting covers to view.
3. Lack of Visuals
To make the most powerful arguments, eBooks should contain statistics, evidence and data that support the claims being made. Rather than simply list those facts and figures, include graphs, comparative charts, pie charts and other graphics to make your point. Research indicates that visual aids can improve learning by up to 400%, and we can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
4. Incompatible Formatting
Another aspect related to design is how easily the content can be printed and viewed. The person downloading your eBook likely isn’t the sole decision maker. He or she may want to print multiple copies for others on their team to review. Your eBook should be able to be printed on standard 8.5” x 11” paper, so format it accordingly. And with a growing number of users viewing online content on their smartphones, make sure it’s also mobile friendly.
5. Too Much Type on a Page
Nothing turns off readers more than a page filled entirely with words. People want things broken down into more digestible chunks and short ideas where appropriate. Don’t run the risk of readers deciding TL:DR (internet speak for “too long, didn’t read). Instead, give them needed “rests” from reading with white space, images, bullet-points — and no more copy than needed to get your point across.
6. Lack of Structure
If a section of your content contains exhaustive information on a topic, it’s easy for it to end up looking more like a textbook than an eBook. Look for small themes within each section to draw upon and use subheads to guide the reader. It will feel more organized and be easier to follow along. Remember the rule about visuals and strategically position a relevant photo or graphic to help drive home the points being made.
7. Overly Technical Content
When identifying your ideal buyer personas, you’ll gain insights into their decision-making processes and the roles they play within their organizations. Their levels of expertise can vary greatly. If the person doing the initial research on your company is in an administrative role or even the C-Suite, they may not have the same level of expertise or understand industry insider terminology as well as someone in product development or the engineering department, for example. As such, the way you present your content needs to speak the language of the people you’re trying to reach. Bottom line: know your audience.
8. Missing the Point
Just because someone downloads your content doesn’t mean they’ll read it. A user will often glance through an eBook to make an initial determination about its value to him or her (and the time required to read it). It’s important to create a desire to dig deeper so your eBook doesn’t get dragged into a folder to look at later (where it could easily be forgotten). Create a sense of urgency and intrigue by highlighting some compelling, can’t-miss points in the form of “snackable” call-outs (much like the "Dummies®" books do). You’ll help build an appetite to want to know more.
9. Failure to Demonstrate Value
Showing how a piece of equipment works or a server is delivered may be really interesting, but telling the audience how and why it can save a company money, improve productivity, increase worker satisfaction, optimize workflows, enhance data security and a host of other benefits is what your potential buyer really wants to know. Make the information useful, and provide evidence to prove it.
10. Being One-sided
When a buyer is researching highly considered purchases that could take up a sizable chunk of a company’s budget, he or she will undoubtedly research several options before making a decision. Your potential buyer will want to know how your solution stacks up against the competition’s. Make it easy by doing the research for them.
Content is the cornerstone of any successful inbound marketing strategy, and eBooks are a valuable tool to attract and nurture both potential and existing B2B customers. But they’re just one piece of a bigger picture. I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest an eBook that can help you further develop your inbound strategy, so check out our Step by Step Guide to Inbound Marketing eBook below. Then, reach out to us if your organization needs help along the way.
Posted by Meg Hoppe Meg provides creative vision to all client projects and serves as the agency's chief content writer. She has extensive experience writing for a variety of industries, including manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare. Meg started in advertising and has become a thought leader in digital content creation and inbound marketing.